Pupils from the International School of Zug & Lucern in Switzerland visited Cedar foundation for the 9th year in a row. They spent two days in the residential homes in Kazanluk and Kyustendil and there they met the children and youngsters living there. They also worked on various volunteering initiatives and in this way making the homes even cozier and more pleasant to live in.
At the beginning of their visit, the volunteers had a day trip to the institutional home for children with mental and emotional difficulties in the Gorna Koznitsa village. Fifty-eight children and youngsters were residing there up until 2010 when it was shut down. Swiss pupils witnessed the living conditions of the youngsters. Svetla Vaseva, the director of our residential homes, shared with them her flashbacks of working as a caretaker in the institution and brought the pupils back in time:
“Coming back here gives me goosebumps. I can still remember hearing children and youngsters´ voices and can still remember the morning smell of the bedrooms. Buckets were used in the bedrooms instead of the toilet. Children were often sleeping on the bare mattresses because the sheets were ripped. A cleaning lady and a nurse were looking after all the fifty-eight children from 6 pm to 7 am. During the rest of the time, there were just two caretakers. The best word to describe the environment is ‘hell’. I am so glad that nobody lives here any longer and the youngsters are in a much better place. I am proud of what we at Cedar Foundation have achieved.”
In the next two days, the Swiss pupils actively participated in our homes´ everyday life. They managed to meet and connect with some of the children and youngsters as well as to work together on the activities. They shared how impressed they were with how different the living conditions in the residential homes are from the ones in the institutional homes. “I got familiar with Cedar foundation´s work while I was still in Switzerland. But it all seemed hard to believe. Now that I am here I can fully comprehend and feel that this is happening. I am glad that I can contribute in some way,” said Zoe, one of the pupils. The first day was dedicated to decorating beautifully t-shirts using special techniques and paint. After that, they painted together the fence and the wooden walls in the residential homes. The day ended with dancing and lots of laughter. Hosts taught the volunteers how to dance Bulgarian traditional dances and gave them traditional souvenirs as gifts. The activities on the next day included painting, renovating the living spaces, gardening. They together planted flowers, new hedges, and herbs. The day ended with a cooking competition for the best-made banitsa (traditional Bulgarian pastry with Feta cheese and eggs). The foundation´s team and the children and youngsters from the residential homes happily shared with the Swiss pupils their recipes and the techniques they use to make banitsa.
In addition to the meaningful contribution the volunteers made, they also managed to make friends among the children and youngsters living in residential homes. They played soccer, table soccer, rode bikes, draw, did hairstyles and laughed together. The pupils’ visit ended with expressing gratitude – they gave the children and youngsters presents to thank them for their hospitality and to express their willingness to contribute in the future. Cedar foundation also showed their gratitude to the pupils by giving them certificates and thanked for the long-term partnership with the International School of Zug and Lucern in Switzerland.